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Boat Varnish Techniques: How To Make Varnish Last On A Wood Boat

Boat Varnish Techniques And Outcomes

Boat varnish techniques - The Boat Taurus

This is the story of a beautiful wooden boat and the boat varnish techniques that the owner uses. That boat is Taurus, a 49 foot Frers wood yawl with a varnished hull. Christian Carleton is the owner of that boat. Everyone who owns a varnished wooden boat knows how time consuming it can be to maintain a perfect varnish finish. The below details the boat varnish techniques that Christian used on Taurus, and the spectacular results he achieved.

 The Original Finish – CPES to prime under Varnish

Taurus Boat varnish techniques preparation prime with cpes

Christian recounts his boat varnish techniques:

‘The original coating was done by us at Baja Naval in the winter of 1990-1991. The topsides were stained red mahogany, 4 coats of CPES were applied, then 10 coats Epifanes by brush, and one final spray coat of Epifanes.’

Maintenance of the Varnish

All varnish is attacked by Ultraviolet Light, which breaks down the UV absorbers within it. Any boat varnish technique will involve replenishment of those UV absorbers:

‘On average every two years since then, the boat has received 3 coats by brush or, 1 coat by brush then 1 by spray of new Epifanes.’

Exposure to the elements

Taurus  Boat varnish techniques - minimise exposure

‘I have side covers that generally stay on 6-9 months per year, but during the summer they are almost always off and we use the hell out of the boat. If I had been more religious with putting the covers on during the summer months I believe the varnish would have lasted many more years.’

 Durability – Long life for Varnish on Wood

Taurus Boat varnish technique - Sail don't varnish

The result of good boat varnish technique:

‘The problem I’m having now is the varnish is lifting off the CPES (blistering) to a point where it is more time consuming to repair it than to strip it all and start over. It only lasted 16 years! (This was written in 2007)’

Christian of course refinished the boat using CPES once more. It is far too early to say how long it will last this time. He has certainly discovered the secret of low maintenance wood however, and offers this testimonial:

‘You are welcome to use my name, my experience, and any photos of the boat in your testimonials. I am a true believer in your CPES product. I have been using it since 1991 on every piece of wood I put into a boat.’

A Full How To Achieve This Longevity On Varnish – Boat Varnish Techniques in Pictures and Words

cpes primed varnish finish on restored wood

We have just published detailed instructions on how to achieve the finish that Carlton achieved, and to get the durability that he did. Our house sign was the subject of this restoration.

We restored it from badly aged bare wood back to the wonderful lustrous highly UV resistant specimen you see here.

Read all about how to achieve this look, and the specific benefits of priming with Smiths CPES in our article restoring our exterior wooden sign.